In Hawaii, we all have some degree of sun damage on our skin. How could we not with our beautiful beaches and weather? Sunscreens, along with clothing, are our first line of defense against the ultraviolet rays raining down on us. While UVB rays have been the main target of sunscreens, UVA rays have been receiving increasing attention over the last decade or two. Recently, new research out of an English university has found a new compound that can provide a better shield in sunscreen against UVA rays.
Since we all need to be cognizant of the sun’s rays here in Hawaii, here’s some more information on this new study and its possible future improvements in sunscreen.
UVA radiation finally gets some respect
Most people only know there are two types of ultraviolet radiation from what they see on the tube of Coppertone sunscreen. “Protects against UVA and UVB rays,” it may say. This designation means the sunscreen is “full spectrum.” But most of the attention has always been on UVB rays, the rays that cause sunburn.
Why is this? For a long time, researchers were concerned with UVB rays because of the obvious damage of sunburns. They knew about the existence of UVA rays, but since they weren’t causing burns, they were overlooked. It turns out that UVA rays could be doing more damage than UVB rays, just under the skin instead of atop it. UVA rays penetrate the skin’s second layer, the dermis, damaging the collagen fibers. This leads to wrinkles and sun spots, but it also damages the DNA, which can trigger mutations that lead to skin cancer. UVA rays make up 95% of the sun’s rays that hit the Earth.
Another effect of UVA radiation
This study by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom targeted another effect of UVA radiation. They found that UVA rays stimulate excess free iron present in cell mitochondria (the structures that produce energy in the cells). The stimulation of this free iron seems to fuel a reaction that causes damage to cell components, including DNA and various proteins. This damage then can lead to cell death, skin aging, and skin cancer. The study says that the role this free iron plays in damage to skin cells exposed to UVA rays has been underestimated for years.
A new compound
The researchers, whose findings were published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatogy, then developed a compound that prevented the free iron in mitochondria from reacting once it was exposed to UVA radiation. They called this compound the “mitoiron claw.” The mitoiron claw travels to mitochondria within cells, where it binds to the excess free iron.
To test the effect of their new compound, the researchers applied the mitoiron claw to human skin cells and exposed them to 140 minutes of continuous sea-level UVA radiation. Compared with untreated skin cells, the treated cells were highly protected against the UVA radiation.
Bottom line? A new additive to sunscreens
What does this mean for us? Obviously, the next step is further testing and then the possibility of adding the mitoiron claw compound to sunscreens. Researchers think this could happen in the next 3-4 years. For your skin, that level of protection against UVA radiation damage could make a big difference in the way skin ages from sun exposure.
But that’s years away. Until then, don’t forget to schedule your yearly skin checkups with the team at Matsuda. Call us at 808-949-7568 to schedule your appointment.